As BJP keeps Advani, Joshi out, Shanta makes first move says will not contest
Shimla: With BJP deciding to keep former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and party stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi out of the contest, Himachal BJP senior Shanta Kumar, 85, has made the first move.
Shanta Kumar on Friday announced that he will not contest the upcoming Lok Sabha poll. He is currently sitting Lok Sabha member from politically sensitive Kangra Parliamentary constituency, which had won four times including 2014.
His statement comes at a time when the party's Parliamentary Board was set to meeting in Delhi on Friday night and finalise the candidates' second list. Top BJP leaders including Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and state BJP president Satpal Satti are in Delhi for discussions on the probable candidates.
"On Thursday night, things are thrashed to a large extent. Now, the central parliamentary board will put its seal," said a senior BJP leader, who indicated that Kangra will get a new candidate.
Three-time state Chief Minister Shanta Kumar is among BJP and Jan Sangh 's most potential and front line leaders in Himachal Pradesh, who was the face of the state's politics and had a role in building-up the BJP in the Congress dominant state. Shanta Kumar had also remained a cabinet minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Reports say barring Hamirpur – where three-time MP Anurag Thakur is sure to be retained as 'winnable' candidate in Himachal Pradesh, there is quite a suspense on rest of the three seats viz Mandi, Shimla and Kangra.
The biggest upsurge is in Mandi Parliamentary constituency in the home district of Chief Minister where former Communication minister Pt Sukh Ram's grandson Ashray Sharma has staked his claim for the ticket.
Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma, who was a minister in the earlier Congress government, had defected from the party before the poll and joined the BJP ahead of the 2017 polls. He is now a minister in the Jai Ram Thakur government.
Sukh Ram has been camping in Delhi to meet the top BJP leaders even as state leaders including Chief Minister has refused to give any credence to Ashray Sharma's claim for the ticket.
Not Sharma alone, there are two other contenders against Ram Swaroop Sharma. Maheshwar Singh, a senior BJP leader and three-time former MP from Mandi, is lobbying hard for the ticket. He had lost the assembly poll in 2017 elections. Brigadier Khushal Thakur, a Kargil war veteran, is also seeking ticket and he had quite a following of his own in the area as being a war hero.
Jai Ram Thakur has held two successive meetings in Mandi during past one week to send a message that the party will not tolerate any indiscipline if any leader tries to overstep the mandate of the party to decide on the ticket. He has also clearly told Anil Sharma, Pt Sukh Ram's son and his cabinet minister to control his son.
Some BJP leaders from Mandi had also sent a complaint to the party asking for action against Ashray Sharma and his father Anil Sharma for trying to jeopardise the party's prospects in Mandi. The rebellion is also brewing in Shimla (reserve ) parliamentary constituency against the sitting BJP MP Virender Kashyap. Party leader H N Kashyap, a who had successfully contested the seat in 2004 is back strongly lobbying of the ticket alleging that he had been given unfair treatment by the party ever since he had lost the poll.